Friday, January 20, 2012

Who Is At Risk?

Hi everyone! I've just survived my fourth day of interning in the special ed and at risk early childhood program at Sky Elementary School.* I have to say, I'm really enjoying it! I love being with the early childhood kids. They are sweet, and fun, and funny! They try so hard at everything, and are so fascinated by things.

I have a question I would love for someone to try to answer for me! , I was meaning to ask my cooperating teacher about this, but it slipped my mind! The particular kids in this class do not have serious diagnosed special needs. Most of them are there because they've been identified as being "at risk." I am not exactly sure how a child gets identified as being "at risk" as opposed to having an actual special need. Its a little confusing to me. The morning class kids are all identified as "at risk," and some of them also have a label of speech delay, autism, developmental delay, etc. These kids get some extra services. For instance, the school has to provide a free snack to them. The afternoon kids have speech delays, autism, or developmental delays, but are not considered to be at risk. I've been trying to Google it, but every website I've found seems to skate around defining what puts a child at risk. One website gave examples that the child may have a teenaged mother, a mother who abuses drugs or alcohol, or a parent with a severe emotional disorder. That could be true. Of the kids I know of who are identified as "at risk," one lives with his parents and three siblings in a motel room because his father lost his job. Another child has to go to the nurse any time he comes to school with a bruise or other injury, no matter how mild, because the family is being investigated for child abuse. Another lives in a kinship foster care placement but does not get much actual care or attention there. But if a child's home situation is what puts him "at risk," how would they get people to sign kids up for the program? Would they say, "You seem to be doing poorly at this parenting business! We have a great free preschool program for your child!" My question to you more knowledgeable teachers is, what is the difference between a preschooler with a speech delay or developmental delay, and an "at-risk" preschooler?

At any rate, it could be that early childhood is the grade level for me. I've worked in a preschool program before, for children in foster care. And I taught a preschool curriculum at home to the children I used to care full time for. Whenever I am at the classroom, my mind is wild with things that I would do if it were my classroom. Not that the teacher doesn't do a great job! Mrs. Wing is awesome! Its just that I can't help envisioning my classroom! I think to myself, "I would do finger plays and rhymes with the children during morning circle! I would have music playing during play time and snack! I would open up a computer center and a science center! I would have specific activities in each center! To get the children to spend some time in  different centers, instead of just living in the block center the way these kids seem to, I would give them a weekly 'passport' and have them collect stickers for trying new things! I would do more open-ended art projects with them! I would do movement games with them in the gym instead of just having them bounce balls every day!" I think the thing I like best about preschool is the teacher's freedom to design her own lessons and activities, instead of sticking to a prescribed curriculum like teachers at some schools have to do. In some schools I've observed at, for instance, a fourth grade teacher cannot do an activity with her students unless she's talked about it at the grade level meeting and all of the fourth grade teachers have agreed to do the same activity, in the same way, on the same day at the same time. In preschool, it seems like the sky is the limit!

We got to go on a field trip yesterday, to the grocery store. The preschoolers got a behind-the-scenes tour. Every department gave them food! Those children ate so much! French fries. Cookies. Cheese. Meat. Oranges. But when we got back to school they still asked, "When is snack?"

Here is a cartoonized picture of my new little friends in the special hats the grocery store manager gave them, so they could pretend like they worked there! All of the hats but one were smashed by the time we got back to school, of course. But it was fun for a while!

On a lighter note, here is a funny moment...  The teacher was teaching the children about the letter C. She was trying to get them to come up with words that begin with C. Mrs. Wing suggested, "What about cup? Do your parents drink coffee in a cup?" Rhea piped up, "No! My Daddy drinks liqour!" In case we didn't hear him right, he repeated it about ten times!

Thanks for reading my post! I'd love to hear what you think, about the at-risk question and about anything else.


  1. I don't teach preschool, but my guess is that the at-risk label is tied to family income levels - that way it doesn't feel like a personal attack. And, no matter what is going on, parents with low incomes need all the help they can get!

    I love your preschool ideas =)

  2. I think at risk is whatever the school district defines as "at risk". It could be family income, family constellation (like teenage motherhood or foster care arrangement) It could be a certain score on a screening test,(language or developmental) or a recommendation from a pediatrician or health clinic. The preschool programs are usually funded separately and the "at risk" designation would be written into the grant, or funding application for the particular program. I'm glad you are enjoying the experience. Yes it is nice to be in a grade level that is not tied to NCLB standardized testing-At least not yet!

  3. In Manitoba (Canada) "at-risk" is defined very differently. There is a provincial guideline as well as different definitions depending on the school division or the organization and they can be based on socio-economic status, living condition, parental employment status, physical diagnosis, community, etc. I think you would have to get clarification from your cooperating teacher because there is probably a state definition and then even a different one for your school!
    I also can't help but envision my classroom when I am student teaching. I am constantly writing down different ideas!


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